A top bureaucrat has been forced to correct the record after a senior official got the number of Australians overseas wanting to come home wrong by almost 9000.
The Senate's coronavirus response inquiry on Thursday heard details of the plight of citizens desperate to get home.
Labor frontbencher and committee chair Katy Gallagher quizzed senior Prime Minister and Cabinet officials about the latest figures.
"How many Australians are currently stranded overseas and are trying to get home?" she asked.
The department's Caroline Millar said 35,700 people were registered as of Wednesday.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Frances Adamson contradicted her about an hour later, saying 26,800 wanted to return.
Ms Adamson indicated the higher number included people registered who did not necessarily want to come back to Australia.
She confirmed consular officials had provided details of homeless shelters to stranded Australians.
"We don't advise people to go to homeless shelters or whatever it might be," she said.
"Where they don't have anywhere to live we provide them a list of homeless shelters or we are able to provide loans.
"It's not that we are directing people there. Just as we provide with a list of doctors if they need medical advice, we try to provide whatever practical advice we can."
The limit on people returning is slated to increase to at least 5500 next month.
Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet deputy secretary Simon Duggan said hotel quarantine capacity - not the availability of flights - was stopping more people returning.
He told the committee commercial flights into Australia had about 20,000 spare seats each week.
"The availability of flights has not been the binding constraint on getting Australians home," Mr Duggan said.
He said the intention was to have everyone on the list back in the country by Christmas.
"Our hope is of course that we're able to bring all Australians home in that time frame but there are a lot of variables in calculating exactly what that will be."
Travel ban and caps on weekly arrivals have led to many Australians in vulnerable circumstances being left without a way home.
Senator Gallagher accused Scott Morrison of passing the buck.
"The prime minister doesn't have a plan in place to bring stranded Australians home and didn't have one in March when the borders closed," she said.
But officials from his own department defended Mr Morrison, saying he was working "incredibly" actively with state and territory governments to get as many people home as possible.